The history of Iraq is largely a history of civilization and Iraq today largely corresponds with the territory of ancient Mesopotamia. Skipping ahead several millennia and modern-day Iraq largely corresponds with the Ottoman Wilayets (administrative divisions of the Ottoman Empire) of the Mosul, Baghdad, and Basra Provinces. The British influence dates after World War I and held sway, particularly with weapons and doctrine through the Tammuz Revolution of 1958. The Ba’ath Party came to power in 1969 with Saddam Hussein as the Vice-Chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council, second only to Major General Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr.
Iraq decided to not be dependent on any one country for its weapons programs and created the State Organization for Technical Industries (SOTI) in 1970. This decision and organization placed Iraq at the forefront of Arab countries with its development of its armed forces, armaments and weapon systems. Using their oil to develop their own brain trust, thousands of young Iraqi students were sent abroad to both sides of the Iron Curtain to learn engineering and bring their new found knowledge back to Iraq.
This book highlights and details that successful story where Iraqis used what they had (the Soviet Union would provide weapons as it deemed fit, and often without all the necessary components). Courting both the Soviet and Western, along with South American and South African, countries, the Iraqis developed their own unique armed forces suited to their unique needs.
The book is presented with detailed text, photographs of the weapon systems, a map, tables and a fantastic color profile section by Tom Cooper (also a prolific aviation author) composing the following twelve chapters:
- From SOTI to MIC
- War with Iran
- French and Soviet Anti-Radiation Missiles
- Latin American Connection
- Multiple Rocket Launchers
- Bull’s Guns
- The First War of the Cities
- Bitter Year
- Coming of Age
- The Legacies of Saadi and Bull
- The War of 1991
- Recovery and Demise
The ingenuity of the Iraqi engineers and military is impressive and highlights the Iraqi ability to in-source their own weapons manufacturing within a relatively short time. Starting with small arms based on British and Czech origin, to importing first Soviet, then French and Western systems that all had an Iraqi twist. Examples include Mirages with MiG components, BMPs with launch rails for rockets, and a very creative solution for air-to-air refueling – a Soviet made fuel truck secured inside an Il-76MD cargo aircraft with its fuel hose connected to Douglas/Intertechnique D-704 refueling pod installed underneath the rear cargo door.
The title of the book highlights one of the Iraqi priorities – weapon systems with range to reach Tehran, necessary during the eight year long Iran-Iraq War. The Iranians had Western weapons with reach and the Iraqis focused on increasing their range. The result was the Al-Hussein, an Iraqi modified Soviet R-17E “Scud” missile that could reach Tehran, and later Israel, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. The Iraqis also wanted further ranging artillery that could outclass and outrange the American-made M-109 self-propelled howitzers, resulting in long-range artillery GC-45 and cooperation with perhaps the preeminent long range artillery expert in the world, Canadian Gerald Bull. This book, while technical and detailed, also reads like an espionage novel with intrigue behind the scenes as Iraq did what it could to increase its arsenal and lethality. Iraq’s military undoing was provoking the West. While they had some successes in improvising air and anti-aircraft combat, they could not stand up to the weight of the Coalition Forces not only once, but twice.
Ali Altobchi has provided the Middle East@War series a concise, well researched and easy to read book to help fill in gaps in the little-known Iraqi weapons projects. Ali hails from Baghdad and was an engineer in the Iraqi defense sector in the 1970s and 1980s. He clearly knows the topic and presents it a detailed, yet easily readable format. I hope he keeps writing books for the Middle East@War series as he can certainly fill in knowledge gaps in this underrepresented military history.
I remember being amazed at the variety of foreign weapons in the Iraqi arsenals in Northern Iraq in 2006. Among the typical Soviet systems were British, Czech, French, Italian, German, South American, and Yugoslavia. The Iraqi military was continuously looking something bigger and better and had very creative and imaginative solutions. Too bad I didn’t have a copy of this book on my deployments as a lot of the Coalition forward operating bases were located on former weapon factories and military bases. This book does a lot to bring to light the Iraqi weapons programs from the 1980s to the Second Gulf War.
Modelers and historians will enjoy this book with photographs and color illustrations of Iraqi armored projects, aircraft, anti-aircraft, missiles, ballistic missiles, and any thing they could conjure militarily. There is a lot of inspiration for scratch building very unique vehicles of all sorts.
Profuse thanks to Casemate (https://www.casematepublishers.com) and IPMS-USA for providing the review sample.
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